It seems to be a growing trend among hirers across many industries to fulfil more of their company’s needs with a contractual, contingent workforce (i.e. freelancers), as opposed to a permanent one. Traditionally, the practice of hiring freelancers applied primarily only to select industries – such as information technology (IT) or design – due to the piecemeal nature of work in industries. Today, even CFO jobs are beginning to be outsourced to freelancers.
Being one of the pioneer industries of the contingent workforce, the IT industry has embraced the utility of the contract worker even more than before, so much so that the term “freelancer” has become almost synonymous with an IT developer (just look at how many freelance jobs listed here and here are IT-related). Rank-and-file development jobs are not the only ones being outsourced too, as you can even find freelance CTOs to hire if you spend a little effort looking.
Is your interest piqued towards the use of a contingent workforce? If we have, here are four of the most compelling reasons to choose a freelance or contract worker over a permanent employee for your next hire.
- Greater hiring flexibility
An often-cited reason for picking a freelancer over permanent staff is price. Freelancers are cheaper because you don’t have to take care of them the way you take care of your staff. While that is a wholly-valid reason (and one we expound in more detail below), the greater benefit of hiring a freelancer comes from the contract – you are hiring them only to do a set amount of work, and not in perpetuity. That means you don’t have to fire them if they don’t perform up to standards – just don’t renew their contract. It may seem like a trivial reason, but firing an employee can be so much work – with manpower laws abound and the general expectation of permanent jobs being, well… permanent – that some companies may choose to outsource the work of retrenching employees to “corporate downsizers”.
Of course, if you like your freelancer, you can always choose to renew his contract, or even tempt him into becoming a permanent staffer later on.
- Ready-to-use “off the shelf”
When a person decides that he can be one of those who goes out to “make it on their own” (i.e. to freelance), it says a few things about them – one of them being that this person is probably confident of their own professional skills. Barring exceptional cases, freelancers are “plug-and-play” folks. You don’t have to go through the trouble of training them for a month, or giving them time to assimilate into team or company culture. They already know their work, and – if they are experienced – how to quickly make themselves fit into the team or company culture.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you become less rigorous in your screening process before hiring freelancers. We’re not saying that all freelancers are like that, but that the good ones frequently are; and you still need to do a proper work of identifying them.
- The nature of their work motivates them to excel
Freelancers are, in a way, living from job to job. Due to this, there tends to be a fundamental difference between how they and a permanent employee thinks – an employee is more likely to think of how not to lose their job, whereas a freelancer is more likely to think of how to create more job opportunities. This fundamental difference means that employees will tend to think about what they should avoid doing, and a freelancer will tend to think about how they can add more value to what they do. After all, an employee is looking to give you no reason to fire him, while a freelancer is looking to give you every reason to hire him for another job.
This is not to say that every employee is just striving to avoid getting fired, but there are clear motivations for freelancers to work a little differently from their employee counterparts; and you can use this knowledge to your advantage when hiring them.
- Cost savings
Even though a freelancer tends to demand higher prices to their employee counterparts, companies often still find that they end up saving on costs when hiring freelancers anyway. For one, if you are Singapore-based, you don’t have to pay an extra 16% of their salary to CPF. You also don’t have to provide medical benefits, annual leave, skills training and whatnot to your freelancers – all of which are things that can incur additional expenses for you.
If you are a larger company, picking one freelancer over a permanent employee might not change your margins much, but how about replacing a department with a team of freelancers instead? It can be a cruel thing to consider, but it can give you the substantially-increased margin that your company needs when going through tougher times.
Today, the trend towards the gig economy seems poised to get more popular, especially among companies and professionals in the IT sector. As our chief executive, Sei Wee, says to Straits Times, freelancers and contract workers are “moving up the value chain” in the IT sector, with more and more professionals taking up jobs of this nature. In fact, the trend is in such a rise that he expects a 20% year-on-year increase in the freelance and contract hires of the industry.
A growing gig economy also means the growth of our local community of technology freelancers. Hence, we at IoTalents are also always looking greater and better ways to serve it. For one, we held an introductory freelancing workshop in conjunction with NTUC last month to inform people about what freelancing is. In May, we will be hosting a few panels – which are designed to educate IT hirers on curating effective working relationships with their contingent workforce – at NTUC’s Freelancer Trade Fair. If you are interested, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn so that you receive updates from us about the fair.